Go back to article: Turning energy around: an interactive exhibition experience

What does your energy transition look like? A role-play interactive

The issue of energy transition can be as complex and overwhelming as it is important. Getting visitors informed and engaged into this multi-layered topic, the intertwined sub-themes and different dimensions of energie.wenden, was a curatorial challenge. To enable rather easy and spontaneous access to the exhibition – without neglecting the complexity of the issue – we choose a highly interactive design. A role-play enables visitors to design their own energy transition whilst in the guise of a politician. While being a playful approach this game simultaneously poses a central but invisible component in the exhibition: the political decision-making process, which needs to take all aspects into account.

Meeting the stakeholders
As visitors enter the main part of the exhibition they slip into the role of a politician with the goal of promoting an energy transition. They will then enter the political arena and target ten different decision stations, each being thematically and spatially linked to one of the Thematic Rooms. At the consoles, the ‘politicians’ also encounter ten stakeholders, each with their own story and agenda (Figure 13). The filmed actors are brought to life by a motion detector when visitors pass by. The ‘politicians’ will meet, for examples, a power station operator calling for subsidies for natural gas or the managers of an apartment building looking for support in their efforts to energy retrofit the building. They address the visitors directly and demand them to act in their favour. At the decision stations, the politicians finally have to respond to these requests and choose from three different political measures. This can be done directly or after exploring the Thematic Rooms to gain more information on the topic. The stakeholders, however, argue for a quick decision, and it is tempting to comply.

Figure 13

Colour photograph of visitors inside a large gallery space with photographs displayed on easels

Presented on large screens, actors directly address the visitors and invite them to respond to specific problems

Political measures and voters’ reaction
The decision stations are activated by inserting a playing card which visitors received upon entering the Political Arena (see Figure 14). A question is asked on the screen and the politicians may, for example, be asked how they plan to reduce COemissions from power plants or how production processes can become more energy efficient. Regardless of which of the three political measures is chosen, they all provoke immediate responses: potential voters show up on the screen and object, applaud or have better suggestions (see Figure 15). The visitors will experience how complex a task it is to persuade different interest groups to join the negotiating table. It is essential to keep a cool head and get an overview of the different perspectives, because in the end a decision will have to be made. The visitors have to confirm their final decision by pulling a lever which punches a hole into the playing card, thereby making the decision irrevocably.

Figure 14

Colour photograph of a museum visitor being given an information leaflet

The visitors receive a personalised playing card with which they can activate ten individual decision stations

Figure 15

Colour photograph of a museum visitor viewing a digital display

Potential voters show up on the screen, providing visitors with their opinions

What does your card reveal about you?
After several decisions, the pattern of holes on the playing card can be analysed. At an assessment station, visitors can find out what their decisions reveal about their priorities and how those match up with different political strategies for energy transition (see Figures 16 and 17). An optical read out links the pattern to a scoring matrix and the points given add up to one of six energy-transition types we designed. These types range from market or globally orientated to being very restrictive, focused on social or environmental issues or which believe above all in science (see Figure 18). The six types are roughly based on the four dimensions of societal transition (Technology, Economy, Culture and Policies) (Schneidwind et al, 2013) and reflect the energy policy triad (energy security, sustainability and economic viability) complemented by social justice.

These energy-transition-types are written in a very simple form and describe exaggerated, hypothetical personalities. Even if some may find that their political standpoint is not quite what they were expecting, they are not being judged by their result. We find that their assignment to a specific type generates lively discussions among visitors about their results and choices – which aligns perfectly with our goal: the game as a whole is designed to reveal how individuals, politics, and society contribute to the process of transforming the energy system and how complex and important this political decision-making process is.

Figure 16

Colour photograph of a digital assessment station for use by museum visitors

The assessment stations are on the left. After enough decisions have been taken, visitors can use these to find out what their decisions reveal about them

Figure 17

Colour photograph of museum visitors receiving an optical read out card

An optical readout of the playing cards is conducted and the assessment is printed on the card

Figure 18

Text of the six different energy transition types options

The six different Energy-Transition Types. The assessment prints one directly on the bottom playing card

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180909/006